Friday, August 26, 2011

The Flesh-Eaters

I did not enjoy Barney Cohen's second novel as much as his first, even though it has a seemingly foolproof premise.

Remember all those urban legends about alligators living in the New York City sewers, the progeny of all those pet baby gators that parents flushed down their toilets? Writer John Sayles and director Lewis Teague made a terrific thriller from this premise. However, Cohen comes at it from a different direction in his 1977 Berkley Medallion novel THE NIGHT OF THE TOY DRAGONS. Instead of one big alligator roaming the series, how about a million little bitty gators?

TOY DRAGONS has some nifty gory attack scenes and isn't afraid to bump off a few kids. However, the excitement is infrequently spaced throughout, as Cohen splits time between a college professor investigating the cause of the grisly deaths, in which bodies are stripped of their skin and innerds, and his sewer-worker father and their respective romantic subplots. A lot of the book is technical mumbo-jumbo from the professor and his staff.

It ends quite abruptly too after 218 pages, as if Cohen had hit his word limit. Just as the danger is branching out to the city streets, Cohen whips out a deux es machina and concludes the action off-page. Why he didn't cut some of the domestic soap opera and dull lab scenes and include more action, I don't know.

Despite its cool premise, THE NIGHT OF THE TOY DRAGONS is, sadly, a disappointment. Learn more about author Cohen here.

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